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What Ademola Lookman must do to beat Osimhen, Guirassy, Salah to CAF Player of the Year award

Halfway through the year 2024, Ademola Lookman remains one of the strong contenders to be crowned the next CAF Africa Footballer of the Year.

It has been an eventful last six months for Lookman who began the year in style at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire.

In only his maiden appearance at the continental championships, the Atalanta forward fired three goals and added an assist to help Nigeria claim a silver medal. He was deservedly named, alongside William Troost-Ekong, in the Team of the Tournament.

The former RB Leipzig star returned to Italy with renewed confidence, which was evident as Atalanta reached the final of the Copa Italia and the Europa League.

Atalanta lost to Juventus in the cup final but Lookman ensured the Goddess’ adventure in the Europa League ended in glory.

The Super Eagles striker made history when he smashed an excellent hat-trick in a 3-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen, becoming the first African to score three times in a European Cup final.

 

Ademola Lookman
Ademola Lookman

Several awards have flowed towards Lookman since that memorable night in Dublin, including Atalanta’s Player of the Season and the Africa International Player of the Year at the Ghana Awards.

However, the most prestigious of them all – the CAF Best Player Award – will only be decided at the end of the year.

It will not be an easy win as the competition is fierce.

Who can win the CAF Best Player award?

Lookman’s compatriot Victor Osimhen is the reigning African best and he remains popular on the continent despite a subdued showing at the AFCON and Napoli’s struggles in the just-concluded campaign.

A move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs is on the cards and it could transform his ratings in the second half of the year.

Then there is Guinea international striker Serhou Yadaly Guirassy who hit an incredible 28 goals in 28 Bundesliga games to inspire Stuttgart to a second-place finish ahead of Bayern Munich. It was the club’s best finish since winning the title in 2007.

Super Eagles striker Victor Boniface also has a shout after winning the Bundesliga Rookie of the Season award for helping Bayer Leverkusen claim their first-ever German league and cup double.

There is also Morocco and PSG defender Achraf Hakimi as well as Gabon and Olympique de Marseille forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was named the Europa League Player of the Season after finishing as the competition’s top scorer.

And not forgetting two-time African Footballer of the Year and Egypt’s hero Mohamed Salah, who remains Liverpool’s goalscoring talisman.

An excellent queue of competition indeed.

Does Lookman have an edge? 

Ademola Lookman
Ademola Lookman

All of Lookman’s rivals for the CAF award – except for Osimhen, for now – will be involved in the UEFA Champions League, where they will get the chance to try and outdo one another.

Lookman, though, has a slight advantage going forward. The 26-year-old attacker can lay his hands on another prestigious title before the season even begins.

Lookman and Atalanta will face Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup – a battle of the Europa League champions and the Champions League winners.

The match slated for the Stadion Narodowy in Warszawa, Poland, on August 14 presents Lookman with another chance to show the rest of the world his clinical efficiency in front of goal.

Surely a goal or two against the most successful club in the world – add the trophy to boot – will certainly elevate Lookman as the number one contender for the Africa Best Player award.

Ademola Lookman
Ademola Lookman

Is Lookman ready for the challenge ahead? 

Lookman knows this and he has been working hard over the summer, preparing for the challenges ahead.

After featuring for Nigeria against South Africa and Benin in June, Lookman took a short break in Jamaica. After his holidays, he returned to work in a Portuguese resort where he built a small football pitch to train on.

Ademola Lookman
Ademola Lookman

By the first week in July, Lookman was in impeccable shape, ready to return to Bergamo to join Atalanta’s preseason camp.

Already miles ahead in fitness and determination, the former Everton forward only needs to find his range, rhythm, and ruthlessness in front of goal to catapult Atalanta to new heights and himself to the CAF podium as the continent’s finest in 2024.